“BIG Mike” loves food.“Without food there would be nothing,”he asserts. “Everyone needs food.”A well-built man from Florida, MikeForbes has worked in hospitality all hisprofessional life. Culinary Adventures –also known as Big Mike’s – is the productof his years of experience.“This club is my dream, my project,my goal,” Forbes says.THE place is situated in the exclusiveUrbanización Los Anonos in Bello Horizonte,a residential neighborhood in thewestern San José suburb of Escazú. Uponfirst glance, it seems a strange setting fora catering business. The front of the houseleads straight to the street and suggests littleof what lies inside.After crossing the converted loungearea, you find yourself outside on a beautifultwo-tiered patio inhabited by a smalljungle of plants, trees, heart-shaped archwaysand empty birdcages. A bamboofence at the far end blends into the environmentbehind, a forested area slopingdown to the Río Tiribí.The layout creates a safe space thatappears bigger than it is.“This is a quiet, comfortable environment,”Mike says. “When people stepthrough the front door they can forgetabout their worries and relax.”It is also a very functional area withseating for more than 100 people and astage on the lower level.FORBES’ forte is hosting and cateringevents. He has 35 years of experiencein the culinary business and has worked incountry clubs, private dining clubs andhotels.“I enjoy good hospitality, as that’swhat I have been involved in my wholelife,” he explains. “My specialty is hostingevents here, for which I do all thecatering.”Dinner prices range from $11-50 perperson. He also hosts seminars and conferenceson site, with a dining room thatcan accommodate as many as 60 peopleindoors. A small bed-and-breakfast serviceis also available, with seven Ethernetcable-serviced rooms priced from¢10,000-20,000 ($21-42) per night.CATERING remains Forbes’ prideand joy – and he is very good at it.“Mike’s food is something special.His lemon pie is divine,” says Ana Lobo,who attended a Culinary Adventures eventin November.Forbes doesn’t advertise his business,explaining that it’s “a private situation,not a public enterprise. I go only onword of mouth; name recognition isenough for me.”He will even recommend other caterers.“If someone is better than me at something,I don’t hesitate to recommendthem,” he says.ONE gets the feeling this attitude ispart of Forbes’ life philosophy; he wants totake things easy and enjoy the pura vida.The Costa Rican lifestyle was one ofthe reasons he moved here five years ago– in addition, of course, to the range offood products found here.“The potential of Costa Rica is incredible,with its variety of climates and therichness of the soil,” he explains. “Althoughthe staple diet is rice and beans, thefresh food here is very good. The vegetableshere are among the best in the world,especially the carrots and tomatoes.”BESIDES cooking, Forbes is alsoinvolved in a range of volunteer work.His passion for birds has led him to supportAmigos de los Aves (Friends of theBirds), a conservation program that aimsto release captive-bred scarlet macawsinto the wild. He has managed to enlistartist Deirdre Hyde, who reproducespaintings that Forbes sells to raise fundsfor the program.His social consciousness also influenceshis decision to host events.“I prefer to do spiritual or educationalevents,” he says. “I’m semi-retired, so Itry to do only events I really want to do.”In addition, Forbes, a strong believerin education, plans to open a full-courseculinary school for student chefs from allover the world.SINCE opening in 2000, Big Mike’shas hosted a range of big events. In 2004he hosted a Canadian Thanksgiving eventwith more than 100 guests.“It was fun to be part of the biggestevent of the year,” says LaurenMuszynski, who worked as a server at theevent. “He cooked a combination ofturkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes andpumpkin pie. People really seemed toenjoy themselves, and it was great to bepart of the behind-the-scenes team thatsaw Mike’s work firsthand.”So what’s Big Mike’s best dish?“Mass quantities are my favorite – atleast that’s what my friends say,” helaughs. “I like to put a whole meal together,and if I have a buffet I will do 15 differentdishes.”For more information on Big Mike’s,call 289-6087 or visit www.culinaryadventurescostarica.com.Big Mike’s Culinary Reference LibraryIn preparation for a professionalculinary school and seminars to beheld at Big Mike’s in the future,Mike Forbes has established a referencelibrary where cooks andgourmands can check for newrecipes or look up old favorites, hesays. A computer is also availablefor Internet searches. Call 289-6087 before visiting. For a locationmap, see www.culinaryadventurescostarica.com.